Recipe #1: Corn Smut

corn smut

The Le Bon Chef crowdfunding campaign is over. The incentives are now due. We have a lot of gifts for our precious donors. The Le Vin level of Le Bon Chef donorship comes with a personalized recipe developed by us using an ingredient of the donor’s choice. Our first donor has weighed in and it’s a doozy. We’re now tasked with designing a recipe for, of all things: corn smut.

Seriously.

Farmers everywhere are guffawing. Or maybe celebrating. Finally something to do with their afflicted crops.

Corn smut and I actually go way back. When I was five, my mother was hit by a misguided desire for a garden. Not sure where my father was or why he couldn’t make her see reason. She’d been raised in Staten Island, probably somewhere close to the Fresh Kills Landfill. The only explanation I have for her lack of reason in the decision to “garden” is that back in the day there was probably one too many dumps of heavy metal waste at Fresh Kills. Regulations were rather loose at that time. Ralph Nader and the Clean Water Act were decades away. Maybe my mom had a bit too much mercury in her diet during her formative years. 

Anyway, she got it into her head that she was a sower of seeds, a tiller of the earth. She planted two rows of hybrid sweet corn that grew up nice but were beset with bulbous, purplish, growths called “smut.” 

Even at an age when every disgusting wonder of the world fascinated me, I found smut to be intolerable. Probably because I loved corn on the cob and now the cob was ruined. Or maybe because corn smut is shockingly ugly.

Ugly, but delicious. Just ask donor Karen Palcho. She sautés it like any other fungus, and serves it as a side dish.

Before you turn up your nose at the idea, consider truffles. These delicacies grow underground and are rooted out by specially trained pigs, (with soft mouths and overacting salivary glands no doubt). And ever seen a morel? They look like diseased animal brains. They are highly prized. Think of all that before you judge corn smut.

Since this delicacy is only available when the corn matures — August — we will not be able to test any recipes we come up with for quite some time. For now we’ll have to use our imaginations as we devise.

I make the assumption that since this particular smut grows on corn, it probably has a high sugar content. I’ll assume that it would work in sweet recipes, so perhaps something jammish would work. Below is my recipe for Palcho Smutmalade based on a mushroom jam recipe I found at the Whiskey and Ginger blog. Go and visit Nicole sometime to see what else she’s got going on.

corn smut

Meantime, Karen Palcho, thanks for the love and here’s your recipe. (BTW, thanks for the photos accompanying this post!)

Ingredients for Palcho Smutmalade

16 oz corn smut, washed and minced
1 shallot, diced
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp honey

Heat butter over medium-high. Add smut and cook until the water has evaporated, stirring occasionally.

When the water from the smut is mostly gone, add the shallot and cook 5-6 minutes until soft and translucent.

Add the water, soy sauce, and honey. Let the mix simmer for 10-15 minutes until thick, with just a little bit of liquid. Taste and adjust as needed. 

For a sweeter smutmalade, use more honey. If you prefer to use smutmalade on meat or on eggs, use less.

No idea how this is going to turn out. Remind me next summer and I’ll collect some smut for the test kitchen.

For the rest of you Le Vin level donors, get your suggestions in!

Meanwhile, sign up for the Le Bon Chef newsletter for news of our progress with the film.

—Sue Lange/producer, Le Bon Chef

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